Rising food and energy prices and the removal of the £20 Universal Credit uplift mean that many families face a tough and expensive winter. So, if you’re worried or struggling to make ends meet, here are five practical things you can do to combat the rising cost of living.
1. Check what you’re entitled to
According to charity Turn2Us, more than seven million people in the UK are missing out on benefits they’re entitled to. In fact, nearly half (45%) of adults have never even checked whether they’re eligible for any government help. As a result, over £15 billion remains unclaimed.
Figures reveal the most under-claimed benefit is Housing Benefit, with £3.3 billion unclaimed. This is followed by Universal Credit (£2.9 billion) and Council Tax support (£2.6 billion). Worryingly, nearly half a million families are also missing out on £775 million worth of Child Benefit.
For families with both adults employed, it’s easy to assume that they might not be entitled to anything. But with the rising cost of living, it’s well worth checking. You can check quickly, easily and in confidence using the Turn2Us benefits calculator which also clearly sets out what the different benefits are.
2. Review your budget
If you’re mindful of the cost of living and already budget, now is a good opportunity to review your income and outgoings. If you don’t budget or haven’t a clue how to start, take a look at our budgeting tips to get going.
Or, if you struggle with your current budgeting method, why not try something else, like zero-based budgeting? If that’s a bit old school, there are apps and calculators that offer a tech alternative for money management.
Remember that budgeting doesn’t have to be about going without the things you enjoy. It’s really about making what you have go further, so that you can have a little of what you fancy. For instance, something as simple as batch cooking could cut food bills by more than £1,000 a year.
3. Know what free childcare you qualify for
In England, all three- and four-year-olds are entitled to 15 hours of free childcare. And some could get up to 30 hours. The offer is universal, so it applies to all families no matter what their income.
Plus, if your child has special education needs (SEN) or receives the Disability Living Allowance, free childcare could start from as early as two years old. For more details, check out who’s eligible for free childcare in England.
4. Switch energy suppliers
Uncertainty over energy suppliers going bust might make you wary about switching. But, it’s probably the quickest and simplest way to cut your energy bills.
Data from industry regulator Ofgem shows you can save over £100 through switching alone. Comparing the average dual fuel price on a standard variable tariff and the cheapest plan available reveals a price difference of £123 per year.
Under the terms of the Energy Switch Guarantee (which 90% of suppliers promise to uphold), switching should take no more than 21 days. It also means the handover is managed by your new supplier. This means you won’t have to worry about doing anything more than taking a meter reading and settling your outstanding bill.
To help you switch, Ofgem has a list of accredited price comparison websites.
5. Find essential household items for less
The cost of living isn’t just about food, energy and bills. It includes expenses like buying household appliances too. And replacing essential items like your washing machine or fridge can leave a huge dent in your finances if you buy them new.
Instead, the Reuse Network sources pre-loved furniture and electricals that you can buy at significantly lower prices. Simply search their network of charities and find what you need locally to you. Last year, the network helped more than 68,000 households in the UK, saving low-income adults £9.3 million.
You can also find help at End Furniture Poverty. Their website lists organisations that provide essential furniture. There’s also advice on affordable credit options including credit unions.